The only Manitoban in the running to receive a one-way ticket to Mars will be leaving behind her brother in Brandon.
Julie Perreault, 31, of Ste-Geneviève just outside of Winnipeg, is one of the 1,058 applicants — including 75 Canadians — to be chosen by the Mars One project committee, which has the audacious goal of establishing a colony on the red planet by 2025.
"There’s is a sense that leaving today for Mars would be a death sentence in a way," said her brother Maurice Perreault, "but they have a decade of training ahead of them."
While he said there is a slight lingering feeling the project is an "elaborate con," he even flirted with the idea of applying himself when Julie made the announcement she was applying.
When she made the declaration to her family, Maurice said he wasn’t at all surprised. Caving, exploring and "experiencing new things" were all interests she included in her application.
"She’s always had an exploratory spirit," Maurice said.
"If she’s one of the ones who are chosen, she’s doing something she really wants to do and I’ll be proud of her."
She will be giving up Earth’s outdoor environment she has grown to love to explore, Maurice added.
"When she puts her suit on for launch, that might be the last time she feels natural wind on her skin," he said, since the Mars-bound humans will be isolated in a man-made habitat.
After the committee made its latest cuts, Maurice said he brought up some concerns of his own, one of which being if Julie has children in the next 10 years prior to the tentative launch date, she will be abandoning them.
He said the Mars One project would discourage people from having children on Mars during the beginning period of settling on the red planet to avoid any additional complications to the small community.
Perreault, a self-confessed "lifelong" science fiction fan, submitted her online application to the committee last year. She received confirmation that she was one of the chosen few on Dec. 30.
"I had to re-read it (the confirmation) at first and make sure," she said recently.
"For 20 minutes I was feeling pretty good about myself. Like, ‘Right on.’ And then I started realizing what that meant. So all the questions I asked myself when I first applied I started asking myself again. Reaffirming that, ‘Yes,’ I want to do that’ ... make the sacrifices and risks."
The sacrifices are obvious. Mars One is being described as a "one-way mission," although it will include an infrastructure which includes living quarters, communications systems to Earth and a water supply which according to the plan will be set up prior to the humans’ arrival.
Mars One is a non-profit organization based in the Netherlands which received more than 200,000 applications for the journey, including 8,243 from Canada. The Canadian applicants accepted include 43 women and 32 men.
The apprehension, she said, will be the possibility, if ultimately selected, of the public scrutiny that will await the final selections. After all, part of the funding for the ambitious endeavour is expected to come from reality-based broadcasts.
"The biggest thing for me is the public," she said. "There will be parts of this that will be televised. As you might expect from a sci-fi geek, I’m more of an introvert, so for me that’s the biggest challenge. That might sound heartless because I’m leaving everyone and everything I know but that’s the biggest thing.
"This whole experience is pushing myself probably harder than I ever will and to know that not only am I doing that but everybody gets to see what comes of it. That’s kind of a daunting thing."
The plan is for a crew of four to depart every two years starting in 2024, with the first group arriving in 2025.
The next step for applicants is to acquire medical, physical and mental clearances. Those selected to the next phase will take part in a simulated Mars environment, spending three months in an isolated habitat in the U.S.
» firstname.lastname@example.org, with files from Winnipeg Free Press